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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Rib Mountain Talus Forest (No. 532)

Rib Mountain Talus Forest

Photo by Thomas A. Meyer



Within Rib Mountain State Park, T28N-R7E, Sections 8, 17. 215 acres.



Rib Mountain Talus Forest is a unique site that supports three rare plant species found among the scattered quartzite rocks on the south side of Rib Mountain. Formed 1.5 billion years ago and standing 640 feet above the surrounding landscape, the mountain is composed of a single large block of quartzite, as are its two nearest neighbors, Mosinee Upper Hill and Hardwood Hill. Rib Mountain is actually a monadnock, a general term for a conspicuous hill that stands above the surrounding plain on account of the resistance of the rock of which it is composed. Being made of hard, durable quartzite, Rib Mountain has thus resisted being worn down to the same degree as the surrounding rocks. The site supports an extensive second-growth mesic forest of sugar maple, paper birch, red oak, and big-tooth aspen. Larger trees present in patches or as individuals including basswood, white ash, red maple, and yellowbud hickory. Scattered conifers are occasionally present but are greatly reduced from their historic abundance. Richer areas support groundlayer plants such as Virginia water-leaf and maidenhair fern while areas with thin soils where quartzite outcrops and talus occur contain plants associated with drier and generally more infertile conditions. Unique microhabitats within crevices of the jumbled talus support numerous rare plants. Rib Mountain Talus Forest is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2005.


Driving directions

From the County N exit of Highway 51/I-39, go west on County N 0.2 miles to Park Road. Follow the road 2.3 miles to a parking area. Hiking trails wind through the site.


Rib Mountain Talus Forest is owned by:

  • WDNR


The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.

The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.


Site objectives

Manage the site as a talus forest reserve and an ecological reference area. Natural processes will determine the structure of the forest. Provide opportunities for research and education on the highest quality talus forest.

Management approach

Native species are managed passively, allowing nature to determine the ecological characteristics. Exceptions include control of invasive plants and animals, and maintenance of existing facilities. Salvage of trees after a major wind event is not considered compatible with management objectives.

Site-specific considerations

  • Although removal of hazardous trees from over and near trails is an allowed activity, manipulation/removal of vegetation and soil disturbance should be minimized to the extent possible.
  • High deer populations may require exclosures be placed around rare plants to prevent browsing.


Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

Allowable activities

In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Friday, October 26, 2018